Sunday, February 29, 2004

#58) The Pretenders - The Pretenders (released in 1979, I bought a copy on used vinyl at City Lights - the cheaper of the two there - during my sophomore year of college)

Now this is new wave. It's still straight-up rock and roll in its spirit and irreverence (a new wave needs to come from the old water, you know), but the album loaded with bracingly novel elements, not the least being Chrissie Hynde. To paraphrase Ann Powers (since I don't have her SPIN Alternative Guide review handy), Hynde was one the first women in rock to project herself as neither a sex kitten or unflinchingly butch, but as a "hardheaded yet softhearted survivor." Everything about their music - especially Hynde's lyrics and impressively nuanced, agile voice - is quick-witted and unpredictable. "Precious" finds Hynde both beguilingly cryptic and rivetingly forthright in her declaration of confident lust, with alarm-like buzz guitars swirling around the rhythm section's thrilling pulse (and gawdamn is this song hot). Side one's closing cover of the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing," while beautifully played and conceptually perfect for Hynde, at first seems out of place due to its traditional song structure. Then side two's "Kid" and "Brass In Pocket" reveal that she's is just as capable of Davies' at writing casual verse-chorus-verse classics. The Pretenders' well-earned commercial success makes me even happier than the critical raves; I have no interest in something this inspiring being kept a secret.

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